opinion Opinion February 19, 2020

Which Aussie acts will see a sales bump from FIRE FIGHT? [op-ed]

Which Aussie acts will see a sales bump from FIRE FIGHT? [op-ed]
Baker Boy / by Jared Leibowitz

was an undoubted success. It raised over $9 million, sold over 70 thousand tickets, was broadcast around the world, and even saw Tina Arena cover The Divinyls while wearing shiny black pants.

But, on a more cynical note, it was also a massive success for the Australian artists that saw their best 15-minutes being beamed to audiences in America and the UK, plus packaged and aired internationally on MTV.

A few years back, I was in Nashville. The entire music scene there is like some alternative universe, where all the popular songs, the ones belted out in beer barns, played by buskers and covers bands, and on radio, were completely foreign to me. It was like that Richard Curtis film set in a world where The Beatles never existed. Or shopping at Aldi and seeing all the familiar, slightly askew product names and packages.

This is what FIRE FIGHT Australia must have seemed like to American audiences. The spirited embrace of and swaying singalong to Daryl Braithwaite’s ‘The Horses’. The constant promises of ‘Farnesy’. Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem and Jessica Mauboy all completely slaying with sets of what must sound like bona fide hits to those who have never heard of these artists. The didgeridoo featured heavily and proudly in many sets, and no doubt more than a few American artists were listening, thinking ‘that thing sounds fucking amazing.’ 

Jessica Mauboy / by Jess Gleeson

seems like he should be the biggest star in the world, which he should be, and probably will be. For a country that has recently unleashed Dance Monkey on the world, this concert was a very good market correction. But in practical terms, how will FIRE FIGHT impact international recognition and sales (read: streams) of the Australian artists that performed at it?

There’s a phenomenon called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or the frequency illusion, when once you become aware of something, either through recently thinking about it, or learning about it, you’ll notice it everywhere. I can only assume this is why every third song on digital radio station Max 70s Hits the day after FIRE FIGHT seemed to be either Sherbert or Daryl Braithwiate – but maybe it’s just canny programming.

In Australia, the artists that are likely to see peaks on the ARIA Albums chart come Saturday (according to our insiders) are Queen, 5SOS and Hilltop Hoods. This makes sense. Queen’s greatest hits records have been meteoric on the ARIA charts since the (largely fictional) Bohemian Rhapsody biopic. A dozen of their singles have reentered radio rotation, and this latest appearance, plus their national tour, will be substantially adding to their streaming/JB Hi-FI “Oh, we should get this CD for the car” numbers. Even without FIRE FIGHT, they were likely to see a spike.

Hilltop Hoods and 5SOS, on the other hand, played to an audience well outside their respective fanbases. Although the 5SOS albums are processed within an inch of their life, their live show is undeniably heavy, they are charismatic in a way that recalls ‘70s rockers (like Sherbet, matter of fact), and they were humble and gracious. Also, the drummer kicks arse. They will have impressed a lot of people (mums, mostly) outside their teen/twenties fanbase. 

As for Hilltop Hoods, well, I guess a lot of people love flute.

5SOS / by Jess Gleeson

Internationally though, it’s likely to be a different story. In the FIRE FIGHT format: short sharp greatest hits sets made for TV, crowd interaction, etc. – it was those artists that have been doing similar for 15 or so years that will have seemed the most impressive to audiences: Guy Sebastian, Jess Mauboy, Delta Goodrem – they will appear as fully-formed pop stars with a truckful of proven hit singles – an easy bet for A&R people looking to bolster their rosters without much effort. 

Streaming figures haven’t come through yet, so it’s hard to see what the immediate effects internationally will be, and which Aussie artists received a bump. But Baker Boy seems the most likely bet, with his Kendrick meets Beastie Boys flow, hooky hits, and great stage presence.

In a few weeks, I will revisit this with accurate streaming and sales data to see if any artists received an international boost from the FIRE FIGHT concert. In this day and age, people have a short attention span, so it’s possible that people have already forgotten the rush of new acts thrown at them from across the globe. Hopefully though, something stuck.

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